Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Internet Cookies: Friend or Foe?

An internet cookie (also known as "cookie," "browser cookie," "web cookie" and similar names) is data sent from a website you visit that is stored on your computer, smartphone or other device you use to surf the web. Cookies keep track of a site visitors activities such as remembering what you've place in your shopping cart, your​ login information and your preferred language.

Sample cookies on a computer
For example, when you click "Remember me on this computer" logging into a website, a cookie is set to automatically log you in the next time you visit. When you log out, the cookie is removed.

A look inside a cookie text file

Tracking Cookies

Tracking cookies can be a pain in the neck, like when you visit an online store for a product and later an ad for the product appears on other sites you visit for who knows how long. Many believe, including me, this is an invasion of privacy.

According to the Tom's Guide website, tracking cookies are "specialized versions of cookies that record your entries and report them back to wherever the cookies' designer wants your data to go." Some cookies are designed to send specific user information, which can include names and addresses, back to the tracker host.

Why I Use Two Browsers

I use two browsers on my computer and Smartphone, one with cookies enabled and one with cookies disabled. Guess which one I use the most?!

My browser of choice for my Smartphone is Ghostery and I use the Ghostery Browser Extension for my computer. Both are free.

According to their site, "Ghostery offers a free browser extension and mobile browser that make browsing the internet cleaner, faster, and safer. Ghostery detects and blocks tracking technologies on the websites you visit to speed up page loads, eliminate clutter, and protect your data and privacy. It also keeps you informed on what companies are tracking you and gives you the tools you need to determine what to block and when."

Related reading:

What are browser cookies? - PC Tools by Symantec

wikiHow to Disable Cookies - wikiHow

Tracking Cookies: What They Are, and How They Threaten Your Privacy - Tom's Guide

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Social Media Can Be Worse Than Alcohol Or Drug Abuse

According to a BBC article, "The addiction that's 'worse than alcohol or drug abuse,'" there are social media users who find it impossible to keep off their devices.

Many are now seeking treatment and counselling from therapists and other professionals offering help to get individuals through the day without compulsive scrolling. Some individuals are even turning to online therapists, such as offered by Talkspace, to deal with their social media addiction.

The article points out that, according to Nathan Driskell, a therapist in Houston, Texas, social media addition is "worse than alcohol or drug abuse because it’s much more engaging and there’s no stigma behind it.”

Social Networking Engineered to be Habit Forming

According to an oped piece at the Computerworld website, "social networking is engineered to be as habit-forming as crack cocaine."

At this time, there is no official medical recognition of social media addiction as a disorder, but you only have to look around to see that excessive use of devices is very real. Perhaps you know others who are addicted, perhaps even yourself.

Related reading

What Is Social Networking Addiction?   Lifewire

Internet Addiction Test (IAT)  Net Addiction

How to Stop Internet Addiction   wikiHow

Monday, April 10, 2017

Don't Fall Prey to Online Rip-offs and Scams

According to an article in the April 2017, issue of the AARP Bulletin, "one in 10 Americans will fall prey to scams this year and millions will be ripped off online or in person." The article points out that, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, data breaches hit an all-time high in 2016.

To help keep your identity safe, AARP advises to beware of these common scams:

A hacker infects your computer by secretly installing malicious software that encrypts you files. If you haven't made recent backups of your data, you can lose all of it and be faced with having to pay several hundred dollars to recover it. AARP advises not to click on any link or attachment in an email that you were not expecting.

Remote PC-Repair Plans
A scam artist calls saying he is a representative of a computer firm (it's fake) claiming your computer files have been infected with malware that will infect your files. The scammer will trick you into giving him full access (called remote access) to your files, look around your computer and steal your identity.

An unsolicited email looks like it comes from a reliable source. Do not click on any links within the email. If you have to change a password, say at your bank, go directly to the bank's website and make changes there. This is another method to steal information stored on your computer and elsewhere.

Spear Phishing
A highly targeted phishing attempt, the hacker finds out your personal information (now quite available on the web). The hacker sends you an email pretending to be a legitimate institution that you deal with, such as a bank, and a link sends to to a fake website that looks real (away check out the url in the web browser).

AARP recommends:
  1. Use a password manager to set up a master password
  2. Be careful with free WiFi (better to use your smartphone data, than free WiFi). Connect to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service for a low monthly subscription fee.
  3. Secure your web searches with HTTPS Everywhere. It can be downloaded for free and encripts your data.
  4. Before wiring money, check the institutions credentials and the identity of the recipient.
Note: In addition to not clicking on links inside emails, and avoid suspicious websites.

Related reading:
VPN - Wikipedia
HTTPS Everywhere - Electronic Frontier Foundation